A methodology for retrieving surface soil moisture and vegetation optical depth from satellite microwave radiometer data is presented. The procedure is tested with historical 6.6 GHz brightness temperature observations from the Scanning Multichannel Microwave Radiometer over several test sites in Illinois. Results using only nighttime data are presented at this time, due to the greater stability of nighttime surface temperature estimation. The methodology uses a radiative transfer model to solve for surface soil moisture and vegetation optical depth simultaneously using a non-linear iterative optimization procedure. It assumes known constant values for the scattering albedo and roughness. Surface temperature is derived by a procedure using high frequency vertically polarized brightness temperatures. The methodology does not require any field observations of soil moisture or canopy biophysical properties for calibration purposes and is totally independent of wavelength. Results compare well with field observations of soil moisture and satellite-derived vegetation index data from optical sensors.